wall to wall
Salters Nick sm size to cdWall to Wall, is the eponymous title of the first major music and picture exhibition featuring new work by North East Artist and Musician Martin Matthews.
Themed geographically, and set between the North East Northumbrian coastline and Carlingford, County Down Northern Ireland, this visual and musical journey starts in Lindisfarne , cradle of England’s Celtic Christianity, then loosely follows the route of Emperor Hadrian’s Roman wall and the Mourne Wall. We journey south via the Northumbrian coast to the Tyne Valley, and follow the Wall through various viewpoints passing through Cumbria to the west coast at Bowness on Solway and cross the Irish Sea to Newcastle, County Down. Here we join the Mourne Wall. Somewhat less known, this monumental undertaking was built between 1904 and 1922 by the Belfast Water Commissioners to enclose the water catchment for the newly built Silent Valley reservoir in the Mourne Mountains. The wall was crafted from natural granite stone using traditional dry stone walling techniques. On average the wall is about 4 feet high and up to 3 feet thick. It is 22 miles long and passes over fifteen mountains. We follow the Wall, through the Mourne’s to Carlingford Lough.
An avid hill walker, Martin’s work features well- known and some more unfamiliar scenes from the many walks made over the years with old school friends Brian Convey and Mick McCarthy (in England) and brothers in law, Manus O’Boyle from Newcastle, Co Down and Donal O’Hanlon from Newry Co Down, in Ireland.
Growing up in North West Durham with the beautiful landscape of the Durham Dales and Cumbria on his doorstep and with Northumberland with its impressive coastline, and the Scottish borders just a stone’s throw away, this often dramatic local landscape gave him a passion for painting the countryside.
Originally tasked with painting and designing a CD cover for the follow up to his CD “Autumn”, Martin painted the atmospheric “Lindisfarne Castle….Winter”; this seemed a very apposite design, given that his second solo effort was to be titled “After the fall…..Winter”.
Encouraged by the results brought about by using a more restricted colour palette he decided to continue with this theme and this collection has emerged. Not all pictures were executed using a restricted colour scheme, several show scenes in a less harsh environment and are more diverse.
It came as a surprise to realise that so many subconscious connections were being made. Musically, geographically and artistically, the unwitting choice of subject has evolved and now has a life of its own. Geographically, the landscape that separates Northern England, The Borders and Northern Ireland is more similar than different. Both regions enjoy beautiful, unspoilt, yet dramatic coastlines. Both areas incorporate border land, moorland, high fells and peat bog, and in the Cumbrian and Mourne Mountains, a geology that makes them indistinguishable. The climate, needless to say is virtually identical.
The paintings in this exhibition are of mixed media, featuring acrylic, oil and industrial paints. They have been executed largely with brush and palette knife. Each titled piece is linked to a piece of music, composed , arranged and in the main, played and recorded by Martin with the assistance of his long time musical collaborator Sean Taylor and a coterie of Northumbrian and Irish musicians.
Martin says:
“Musically, the parallels between the traditional music of Northumberland, the Scottish Borders and Ireland are obvious and it is wonderful to celebrate those similarities rather than declare their differences. Really, it must be appreciated that the dance music, the traditional song, the centuries old piping and fiddle tradition of this small region on the borders of Northern England, owes much more to Ireland and Scotland than it does to London.
Armagh, Iona, Lindisfarne united through centuries of mutual cultural heritage.”
“My aim is to explore their similar melodic structures and time signatures, and try to interpret both their similarities and their subtle differences. These differences are often apparent to the musician but not always obvious to the listening public. I believe it is essential to keep a living tradition thriving. Personal reinterpretation of the existing canon of traditional music should always invigorate and prevent fossilisation; however, we must remember that traditional music, in its purest form, is an oral tradition, learned from practitioners by personal transition. Composing new music, expanding the repertoire while still respecting the essence of each tradition, will, I believe, help keep the music alive and in good health for future generations.”
This new music has been composed to faithfully represent the specific folk traditions found on this journey. To that end, Martin has enlisted the aid of many acclaimed masters of their particular instrument, and regional style. These include;

Paul Martin……….Border Pipes, Highland Pipes (Champion Highland and Border piper)
Roddy Matthews……….Fiddle (Champion Northumbrian/Border Fiddler)
Paul Archer……….Fiddle (Recording Artist, The Rub, The Vin Garbutt Band, composer and luthier)
Tom Leary……….Fiddle (Recording Artist, Feast of Fiddles, Tanna, composer)
Andy May……….Uilleann Pipes, Northumbrian Small Pipes, piano, low whistles (Multi-Champion piper, Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies, Baltic Crossing)
Paul Ruane……….Fiddle (Recording Artist, CUIG, Tutor Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann)
Deirdre Ruane……….Accordion, whistles (CUIG, Triple All Ireland Champion)
Donal O’Hanlon……….Guitar (Recording Artist, Gael Linn)
Jim O’Boyle……….Concertina (Jim O’Boyle and Chuck Fleming, Joint Stock Band, O’Boyle Band)
Dan Hands……….Fiddle (North Country Dance Band, Steam Radio)
Damian Caisley……….Guitar (Maximum Pastry, Joint Stock Band)


Click here to view the gallery and here for descriptive text on each painting.